LEGO, California making toys more gender neutral

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Azusa Barbie attends the Barbie Truck Totally Throwback Tour Launch at The Grove on November 01, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images for Mattel)

(WTVO) — LEGO and California are making efforts to remove perceived gender biases from toys.

LEGO announced on Monday that it will work to remove gender stereotypes from its products after a global survey they conducted showed that attitudes to play remained unequal and restrictive, according to The Guardian. The researchers found that while girls are becoming more open and confident to engage in a wide range of different activities, the same could not be said for boys.

Seventy-one percent of the boys surveyed reportedly said that they were afraid they would be mocked for playing with what they called “girl’s toys,” a fear that they shared with their parents. Madeline Di Nonno, the chief executive of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, who conducted the research, said that for parents, this fear is worse when dealing with boys than girls.

“Parents are more worried that their sons will be teased than their daughters for playing with toys associated with the other gender,” Di Nonno told The Guardian. “But, it’s also that behaviors associated with men are valued more highly in society. Until societies recognize that behaviors and activities typically associated with women are as valuable or important, parents and children will be tentative to embrace them.”

The study did not only deal with toys. The study also found that boys were more encouraged to participate in activities such as sports, while girls were more encouraged to participate in things like dance.

When it comes to toys, they can be seen as “training opportunities” for young children, according to Prof Gina Rippon, a neurobiologist and author of The Gendered Brain.

“So if girls aren’t playing with Lego or other construction toys, they aren’t developing the spatial skills that will help them in later life. If dolls are being pushed on girls but not boys, then boys are missing out on nurturing skills.”

In response, Julia Goldin, the chief product and marketing officer at the Lego Group, said that LEGO is now striving to be more inclusive.

“Traditionally, Lego has been accessed by more boys, but products like [arts and crafts line] Lego Dots or Lego City Wildlife Rescue Camp have been specifically designed to appeal to boys and girls,” Goldin said.

The new strive towards inclusivity is not only subjugated to the production of toys, but to the selling of them as well. California became the first state on Saturday to require department stores to display products, such as toys, in a gender-neutral way, according to CBS News.

While the new law does not outlaw boys and girls sections in stores, they must also have a gender-neutral section of items, regardless if they have traditionally been marketed for boys or girls.

Girls and boys sections are traditionally color-coded with pink or blue, respectively. According to LGBTQ advocates, those colors in traditional marketing pressure children to conform to gender stereotypes. Academic research has shown that these gender-specific toys, and sections, can stunt children’s emotional and psychological growth.

“If you want to develop children’s physical, cognitive, academic, musical and artistic skills, toys that are not strongly gender-typed are more likely to do this,” said Judith Elaine Blakemore, a professor of psychology and associate dean of Arts and Sciences for Faculty Development at Indiana University−Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“We need to stop stigmatizing what’s acceptable for certain genders and just let kids be kids,” said Assemblyman Evan Low, a Democrat from San Jose who authored the California bill, “My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the U.S. to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes.”

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